Mindfulness Meditation Could Lower Levels Of Cortisol, The Stress Hormone

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Even more research is drawing a clear link between mindfulness meditation and lowered stress.

A new study in the journal Health Psychology shows an association between increased mindfulness and decreased levels of the stress hormone cortisol.

"This is the first study to show a direct relation between resting cortisol and scores on any type of mindfulness scale," study researcher Tonya Jacobs, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of California, Davis Center for Mind and Brain, said in a statement.

For the study, 57 people spent three months in a meditation retreat, where they were taught mindful breathing, observation skills, and cultivation of "positive" mental states like compassion.

At the beginning and end of the retreat, the participants also had their cortisol levels measured with a saliva test, and their mindfulness levels rated on a scale, which Jacobs explained in the statement "measured the participants' propensity to let go of distressing thoughts and attend to different sensory domains, daily tasks, and the current contents of their minds."

Researchers noted that the participants' mindfulness scores on the scale were higher at the end of the retreat than at the beginning. Plus, they found an association between increases in mindfulness and decreases in cortisol levels in the saliva.

However, it's important to note that this study did not use a control group to compare cortisol levels to. Researchers noted that future studies should include a larger group of participants and a study design that includes a control group.

This study joins a whole host of other research showing mindfulness meditation's stress-busting effects. For example, a 2007 study in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences showed that going through integrative body-mind training (a type of meditation training) helped to lessen the body's release of cortisol and lower anxiety and fatigue levels in college students. And a 2008 study in the Journal of American College Health showed that meditation could reduce stress and boost forgiveness.

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